Pete Seeger died today. I saw Pete Seeger perform in Perth Amboy New Jersey after he arrived on the Sloop Clearwater. Pete Seeger and his wife Toshi established the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater to preserve and protect the Hudson River, its Tributaries and surrounding water bodies. The Clearwater stopped in Perth Amboy to promote a restored Raritan Bay. I loved the Raritan. I grew up on an in one of its tributaries, and fished and crabbed her waters. I didn’t know who this guy was who played a banjo, but my 8th grade mind could tell he loved the river he sang about and that he wanted to protect it and I could relate to that.
I came to learn more about Pete as I grew older and was impressed with how he lived what he believed, how he lived his principles, and that impressed and inspired me. It still does. I got into the water today because of, and for, Pete.
The air was 15 degrees and the water was barely above freezing. It hurt to get in, but the water was clear. A new growth of brilliant emerald green algae emerged in the last week and covered the bedrock bottom. Some case maker caddisflies clung hard to the rocks they grazed. I am always amazed at how these seemingly dainty animals can hang on against what feels like impossibly forceful currents. Others hunkered in clusters in a crevice on the lee side of a rock and sealed the openings of their case with white milk quartz pebbles. Why they choose milk quarts instead of any random pebble is beyond me, but it seems to be intentional.
Pete taught us lessons through the way he lived. Maybe those caddis are a lesson too. I am trying to put a few trips together for some urban kids and learned that they aren’t allowed in their local streams since they are impaired waters and unsafe for contact. I participated in a freshwater mussel workshop today and the fairly consistent message was that mussel ranges are shrinking, diversity is dropping. When it seems that the immediate fix of greed outweighs any consideration for future generations, when it seems the basic human need for clean water is unattainable, and the only environmental news is bad, it would be easy to let go and get swept away in the current of pop culture distraction. But that’s when we need to hang on and make steady progress, like the caddis I watched graze in almost frozen water. A green caddis slowly crawled between pebbles and its jabba the hutt body seemed to glow against the white and orange cobble bottom. It too hung on.
I floated in the pool as ice formed on the back of my drysuit and hood and just enjoyed being in the water. I enjoyed the freedom of floating, and I enjoyed Pete Seegers vision of Clearwater. Thanks Pete.
“Participation - that’s what’s gonna save the human race.” – Pete Seeger